Comics Color Outside the Lines, Drawing a Diverse Cast of Heroes

Graphic novels and comic books now feature an inclusive pantheon of heroes, from LGBT figures to a black Spider-Man and a female Thor.

Bam! Thwak! Pow! Diverse superheroes are giving old stereotypes a beating.

As comic book and graphic novel sales in North America cracked one billion dollars in 2015, nontraditional characters—racial and cultural minorities, women, LGBT figures—are becoming major players. Some heroes in this inclusive pantheon are new. But well-known characters and brands are also getting a makeover: Marvel now has a black Spider-Man and a female Thor; Archie Comics’ multiracial character Harper is disabled; DC’s Wonder Woman recently officiated at a lesbian wedding.

Industry analyst Milton Griepp says once marginalized groups started appearing regularly in mainstream comics about 10 years ago. The rise of manga, with its heavily female readership, and the recent superhero films of Hollywood have been catalysts for the change, he says. So have shifts in popular culture, laws, and demographics, and the ubiquity of the Internet.

Read This Next

These ants can shrink and regrow their brains

How to stop discarded face masks from polluting the planet

‘Tiger King’ stars’ face scrutiny in court

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet